Has your child’s schools tackled the War on Waste?

Reader question:

Just wondering if any schools have tackled the War on Waste by encouraging parents to send their kids with less packaging in their lunchboxes? Eg. providing information about the cost of packet foods vs. buying in bulk and dividing snacks into reusable bags, or even having nude food days? How did you go about it and what was the response?


Here are some ideas from our Facebook community for encouraging parents to tackle the War on Waste:

  • Our school does waste free Wednesday – teachers check their lunchboxes and if they are free of plastics etc they get a raffle ticket which goes in the draw for a prize weekly.
  • Our school does a wrapper-free day once a term. The class that produces the least amount of waste wins a prize (I’m not sure what it is, the principal organises it) and all the kids who are wrapper-free go into a Lucky Draw to win a free lunch from the canteen. Our school (public primary school) has a Minister for the Environment as part of their Yr 6 parliament, and the kids drive initiatives like this, so the children really get into it.
  • Our school introduced the ‘golden’ lunchbox challenge – and each class had a tally sheet of each students ‘rubbish’. At the end of the week, the class with the least amount would win a treat from our tuckshop. It has worked like a dream, and we’ve had a huge reduction in unnecessary rubbish in our school.
  •  I think that schools need to take into account what type of demographic their students fall into. I’m all for reducing waste but sometimes families have higher priorities than ensuring their child has nude food for school.
  • My grand daughter’s school has no waste Wednesday.
  • At our school it has been an SRC initiative rather than coming from the p&c. Last year they had the “waste world cup”. The SRC reps in each class counted the rubbish each lunch and the class with the lowest score at the end of each week was the winner. The winning class then got to keep the trophy for a week until the next winner was announced.


An interesting insight from one reader:

Our school is waste free. I’ve seen it be a *huge* struggle for new/incoming parents, but for those of us in the swing of it, life is easier – and we live more like this at home now too. It’s cheaper too. The eating policy at school is often a bone of contention, but in all reality, it’s really good! Local dentists can tell the kids that are from our school.

Idea: Starting with the youngest years and making it compulsory for the incoming students may work? That way you can phase it in over the years, until there are no kids left that know any different! The issue with “one day” a week or month waste free is that parents will forget or complain about it being tricky. It’s really a lifestyle choice and a lifestyle move.

Perhaps you could start with one item, say yoghurt. Yoghurt has to come to school in reusable tubs or tubes, not throwaway plastic. This is the school rule. Figure out the cost one 1L of yoghurt plus the container, vs sachets. Figure out the cost over one school term per child. The sense should kick in 😉Eg. Woolies 1L vanilla yoghurt = $3.50

Woolies 70g pouch = $0.75

1L is around about 14 x 70g serves
$3.50 vs $10.50

Reusable container: Sistema portion pod 2 pack $7 (or a large fancy version that you could add fruit or muesli to separately) sistema snack to go $5

Total cost: $3.50+ one-off $5 vs $10.50, ongoing $3.50 vs $10.50.

Plastic waste free also saves you from wasting cash. Prices are all from Woolies online, I used the lowest unit price options and high quality container options as an example.


  • Our school encourages nude food. We started with Waste Free Wednesdays and the kids were encouraged to bring food in reusable containers (and received stars on a chart for doing so). Information was provided to parents in newsletters, flyers and information sessions and all mentioned the cheaper cost of buying bulk packets rather than individual. This has now become the norm every day as a nude food school (although not everyone does it).
  • We have a Wipe Out Waste program here in SA that encourages kids to do this as a maths exercise – work out the comparative cost of individual packets vs buying in bulk.
  • Our student council do this. Each classroom has a waste management system where everything that can be is recycled, including compost. Once a week they have a ‘wrapper free Wednesday’, the class with the least amount of wrappers each term wins a class party. Classes are getting down to 3-4 pieces of general waste on these days.
  • There is a great video on ABC ME from a school that introduced this. I think it really needs to come from the student council rather than the P&C so the kids are behind it from the very beginning.


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